Carnival in Cologne

On Rose Monday, I was in Köln for the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) Parade. This was part of a slightly larger trip which included Karlsruhe and Stuttgart-  I’ll talk about those in another post, because Cologne during Carnival is more than enough for one post.

First, a brief administrative note-  I took more than 600 pictures, and I whittled them down to around 180 or so that were worth sharing with anyone.  From those, I picked 32 for this post.  If you want to see the ~150 that aren’t in the post, they’re in this gallery over here.

Second, there are a few things to bear in mind while looking through these pictures:

1) The best thing about the Carnival season for a big kid like myself is the costumes.  There were so many costumes-  I noticed a high count of bees, giraffes, and pirates.  The people who wore full body fur suit costumes had the right idea though.  The temperature wasn’t bad, but it was windy. Unless you were standing directly in the sun, it was kind of cold.

2) If I ever go to one of these things again, I totally need a costume with a helmet.  Flying bars of solid chocolate hurt when they hit you in the head.  Even a packet of Haribo gummi bears can be unpleasant if you get beaned right in the forehead.  The candy was being thrown for hours, and after a while I started to shrink back like a kicked puppy any time someone made a throwing motion.  The kids standing on either side of me made out like bandits from all the noggin-bounce candy castoffs, though.

3) These pictures actually span two parades.   When I arrived in Cologne on Sunday afternoon, there was a different parade going.  This parade featured more children, and wasn’t quite as large as the official parade on Monday, but it led to almost a quarter of the more than 600 pictures I finished the weekend with.

On to the pictures!  The first one is an off-duty Superman, looking like a 70s pimp with that furry coat.  I think the guy next to him is wearing a Batman costume, but I can’t be sure.  This costume is particulary daring with the chilly weather.

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Next up, a few Gnomes.  The Gnomes aren’t what I love most about this photo, though.  It’s the walking shower behind them… the curtain, the faucet… I think the shower costume is both creative and hilarious.

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One of the many giraffe costumes I saw.  I can pretty much guarantee that this guy was not nearly as cold as I was.

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This next couples costume won’t make much sense to my American friends without context, but I spotted it right away-  there’s a series of very cute commercials here for Kinder Riegel milk chocolate.  I’ve embedded an example below, so you can see what the costume is all about.

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When it’s time for lunch, you can’t go wrong at a snack bar with thiscast of characters.

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During the first parade, I was particularly amused by this entire family of bears, each equipped with his or her own Honig (honey) pot with which to catch candy thrown from parade floats.

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Another chocolate-inspired group costume.

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There were so many great costumes that I put nine more into an image collage.  The full sized individual shots of each of these are in the gallery linked near the top of this post.

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On Monday morning, the parade started at 10:30, but I found a place closer to the end of the parade route than the start, so the streets actually looked this empty at first.  Also, you can see that the windows on the parade route are often boarded up.  I’m not sure if this is because of drunken revelry or if it’s because of flying chocolate bars, but this is a pretty common sight along the parade route during Carnival.

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The empty streets didn’t last too long though, and before long there was plenty to see.

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There was a lot of NSA/Google/Facebook/Data-Security themed stuff.

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I made these six pictures into a collage because they were all together, and there’s a theme here.  The green wigged, blind-folded people have eyes on their hands to represent the constant watching of data leeches like Facebook.  I think the NSA camera stick holders in the previous picture were also with this group.  Plus the green wigs were conga-lining, which was kind of fun.

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I don’t know what this one was supposed to represent, but I thought it was neat looking.

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I have no earthly idea what the story is with this group.

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The German on this golden knight translates to “Your cellphone, your freedom.”  I’m not entirely sure what they meant by that, but I think it was another one talking about data security.

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There were lots of marching band and drum corps types of groups in various ornate uniforms…

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…and one group playing marching washboards.

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Some of the floats were single-rider deals, like this one.  The head was turning back and forth.

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More marching bands…

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More single-rider floats…

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I think after about six hours of playing the same song, you start to go a little crazy.  Like this guy.

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Once again, I have no clue at all what the deal is with the giant yellow heads that all have soul patches and deerstalker caps.   I bet they’re heavy though.

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There were lots of horses in the parade, but these two had the longest manes of any horse I’ve ever seen.  Usually, parade horses have their manes trimmed very short- not so with these two.

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The Zugordners (parade marshals) were utterly fascinating to watch.  They all had these bright red jackets with the little black hats that were vaguely English Bobby shaped.  I have no idea what they actually did, though, because the parade sort of moved itself along without any special pointing from this guy or his brethren.

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…and on to the floats.  The German on this one reads, “Fun Ghetto.”  Inside the jail is someone drinking, a pair of humping dogs, and other forms of caricatures of fun.

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I’m not sure if this one had a meaning other than just being Carnival-themed.

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This next one might need some parsing from my German friends.  I think the German text is supposed to translate to “Upgrade you will.”  The goat has a rocket strapped to his back.  And Yoda’s wearing a scarf for what I’m pretty sure is a local sports team.   I don’t really get the full meaning.  Any locals care to fill us in?

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This one says “The Death Star, Washington” on the side.   There were a few floats that had anti-American sentiment.  All the NSA spying stuff has really caused some friction between our nations.

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See?

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About an hour after the parade ended, I walked over to the courtyard between the train station and the Cathedral.  There were still an incredible amount of people moving through the city back to the train station.

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I was wondering how the city recovered from something like the Rose Monday parade so quickly, and now I know.   As soon as the parade was done, the cleaning crews came out.  A veritable army of people with brooms gathered the majority of the debris into small piles, and another group came by with giant vehicle-sized vacuums.  That giant white tube is a huge vacuum, sucking up piles of garbage from the street.  I’ve never seen anything like it before, but I think it’s pretty nifty.

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Have you ever been to a Carnival Parade?

A Weekend In Köln

Continuing on my longstanding trend of seeing new cities because there’s a concert there that I want to see, I went to Köln (Cologne) to see Owl City.  I’d seen them once before, in Orlando, and the previous show was bigger- more people on stage, real stringed instruments for the violin and cello bits, and so forth. This time around, it was in a smaller club with a smaller lineup.  Still a great show, though.

There’s more to Cologne than a happening concert venue, though.  While I didn’t see the entire city by any stretch of the imagination, I did see some nifty parts of the city.  Here are some interesting things about Cologne.

The Beer Is Tiny:

The local beer, called Kölsch, is a pale and tasty drink which is usually served cold in very small cylindrical .2 liter glasses.  The picture below is an abnormally big one.

In pubs in Cologne, the common practice is to immediately bring you a new one every time your glass is empty without any prompting.  To make the beer stop flowing, you have to leave your glass half full or put your coaster on top of it.

It Has A Pretty Neat Bridge:

If you arrive to Cologne via train as I did, you come in on the Hohenzollern bridge, which crosses the Rhine river.  This is the most heavily used rail bridge in Germany, with around 1200 trains passing through it every day.

The bridge also has a pedestrian walkway alongside the tracks, and since 2008, the fence between the footpath and the train tracks has been covered in love locks much like the bridge here in Regensburg.  While I was taking these pictures, a couple got married a few meters away from me, and then placed their own padlock on the bridge.

Their Cathedral Looks Just Like Ours*, Except Way Bigger:

You can’t miss the Kölner Dom when you come out of the train station.   The cathedral is enormous and it was constructed in Gothic style, just like Regensburg’s Dom*.  As a result, the look and feel of the place is very similar.  It’s just much, much larger.   It’s huge.

No, really, it’s enormous.  Here’s a closer shot to give you a sense of scale.

Climbing the spire is a pretty popular tourist attraction.  It’s 509 spiralling stone steps to a viewing platform just over 322 feet above the ground.  They’ve put in fencing to keep people from dropping stuff, but even with the fencing, the view is pretty spectacular.

Tour Groups Everywhere:

Look, a Segway tour group!  I swear, I’m gonna ride one of those things some day.

They Have A Cable Car:

The Kölner Seilbahn has been crossing the Rhine river since the late 1950s.  With my previously established love of tall places, it’s a given that I had to ride it across.

They Have A Chocolate Museum:

Of all the museums I’ve been to, the Schokoladen Museum is my current favorite.  The actual history of chocolate wasn’t all that interesting to me, but the place has functioning chocolate manufacturing processes which can be seen at various steps.  One part is an entire automated line which made the small chocolates that are given to each visitor as they enter the museum. The machine below is constantly turning molded chocolates in various shapes as they dry and harden.

One Last Thing About Köln:

The city is adjacent to another nearby town, Brühl, which is the home of the  PhantasiaLand theme park.  That’s another post, though.

Automation is cool.

This may be one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

Most train stations have a room with lockers where you can store your luggage for a few hours. Köln’s Bahnhof has a row of automated machines that fill the same role.

It’s coin operated. You select either ten or 24 hours and pay accordingly, then you put your bag in a metal cube and a conveyer belt whisks it away to the underground land of gnomes and cookie dough. When you come back later in the day, you give the machine your magnetic stripe receipt and it retrieves your bag from the Keebler Elves and sends it back to you via conveyer belt.

This is so cool that I may need to lie down.

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